Carolina A. Herrera on fashion’s role during the global pandemic
The fashion house’s charitable initiative Heart for Hope hopes to create a positive change while adding cheer to your wardrobe
As the demand for ethical fashion rises, luxury brands are slowly realigning their strategies to practice socially responsibility, whether it’s minimizing their carbon footprint or pledging donations to global non-profit organisations. This spirit of giving back has been an intrinsic part of the Carolina Herrera DNA. Lead by fashion’s most admired woman, Carolina Herrera, the brand has been pushing towards change at a global level. For the past decade, it has supported the global breast cancer awareness campaign. And as coronavirus captured the world’s attention, the luxury fashion house was quick to respond to the change in needs.
Carolina Herrera’s fragrance factories in Spain halted production to deliver hand sanitiser to the Spanish government, and the leather workshops created medical-grade scrubs. As these efforts continued, the brand brainstormed ideas to elevate its efforts to a more global level. In May, the fashion house announced the Carolina Herrera Heart for Hope initiative, through which 10 per cent of all handbags and accessories sales will be donated to the Red Cross and Red Crescent COVID-19 relief programmes.
Carolina Herrera bags are created to be heirlooms, handed over from generation to generation. Handcrafted in the leather ateliers in Spain, the bags symbolize the luxury brand’s timeless femininity. The Heart for Hope initiative includes signature pieces like the Matryoshka and even includes the pieces of the latest Insignia collection like Doma and Initials. “We hope it will take some of the guilt of out shopping because the only way to help out everybody is by contributing a little to the economy. Let the wheels turn again,” says Carolina A. Herrera, daughter of the brand’s founder who is the creative director at Carolina Herrera fragrances.
Herrera talks to ELLE from her home in Madrid, where she has been social distancing over the past few months, about the evolving fashion landscape and the impact of shopping with a conscience.
ELLE: What inspired the Heart for Hope initiative?
Carolina A. Herrera: At Carolina Herrera we are always thinking about how we can help and collaborate by joining forces with other organisations. When we saw how [COVID-19] was affecting the world, and everything we were experiencing at a personal and professional level, we started doing the math. We created clinical grade overalls for the medical community. As time went by we wanted to explore something long-term that would have a larger economic impact. Next we thought about who we can collaborate with—the Red Cross made sense. It is a respected international organisation that works very hard. It was the best way to reach out to more people and create a big impact.
ELLE: Why pick bags and accessories as the focus of this project?
CAH: Honestly, because that’s what sells the most. We want to raise a lot of money, and 10 per cent of a lot is better and 10 per cent of little. Buying a bag or an accessory is a no-brainer, it’s not so easy to buy clothes. The idea of creating something handmade and personal that can be used in the long-term was very important to us. Fashion moves quickly, and although accessories are a part of this fashion cycle they are classics that last long. For me it’s really important that we create something that you would want to use more than once.
The bags are a keepsake, and each time you use it you’ll remember that you bought it in 2020 and that some part of it went to Red Cross. There’s a lovely personal story to it, it’s more than just a bag of the moment. [This initiative] gives shopping another dimension. The only way to help out everybody—whether it’s a neighbourhood joint or your favourite restaurant—is by contributing to the economy.
ELLE: As a member of the fashion community, what is your biggest takeaway from the pandemic?
CAH: I think we’ve all learnt that we can live with less, and that it’s time to go back to the basics. This is our chance to evaluate if we need to own so many things or travel so much. Even for a shoot, do we need so much to create beautiful photographs? There is more power in less. Our close knit family friends are our biggest supporters and nothing matters more than their good health.